Amidst a season filled with frustration, Monday was a great day for the Blue Devils. The squad was able to go to South Bend and snag a HUGE win from a scrappy Notre Dame team, and most importantly, they did it as a team. Prior to this weekend, Duke had not picked up a single true road win. Now, after defeating Wake Forest and Notre Dame, the Blue Devils are able to return to Cameron with two ACC road wins under their belt. Here are my three main takeaways from the game:
About a week ago, Duke showed its defensive potential in an outstanding second half in which the Blue Devils outscored Miami by a lopsided score of 45-22. The excitement only lasted a couple of days until Duke once again looked puzzled and unengaged defensively in an inexcusable loss to NC State at home. Duke was able to bounce back with an ugly win at Wake Forest, but once again, allowed loads of points in the paint. Monday, however, was a completely different story. Duke was locked in the entire game, not just one half, and made it very difficult for Notre Dame to penetrate. Kennard, Allen, Tatum, and especially Matt Jones, did an outstanding job guarding the perimeter, and were unphased in a hostile environment. The difference in this one was truly defensive intensity. Amile and Harry played a solid game of post defense, despite getting some horrid calls from the refs who seem to think basketball is a non-contact sport. The Duke offense sputtered at times, but their defensive effort kept them in this one from start to finish.
Jayson Tatum’s Maturity and Efficiency
There is no way around it, Jayson Tatum played a fantastic game of basketball. Everyone knows he can score but I was most impressed with his ability to rebound in traffic. Tatum grabbed 14 rebounds and most importantly, did not force many shots. Tatum proved that he can excel at the power forward position for this Duke team and it was great to see his confidence unphased after back-to-back rough outings against Wake Forest and NC State. He still needs to cut down on the turnovers, but it is a great sign to see the sensational freshman finally gelling with the talent around him.
Overall Maturity in the Freshmen
With only a few minutes left, it seemed as though Notre Dame was about to take hold of this game. Duke’s leading scorer, Luke Kennard, and captain, Amile Jefferson, had both fouled out, and Duke was forced to put three freshman (Frank, Jayson, and Harry) on the floor in a loud, hostile environment, not to mention that Harry Giles was forced to play with four fouls. I cannot overstate how impressive it was that the freshmen, plus Grayson and Matt, were the ones to close this game out. Harry stepped up in a major time with multiple deafening rebounds while avoiding his fifth foul. Jayson continued scoring and Frank played some solid man defense. Grayson showed excellent composure and Matt Jones knocked down some big free throws. It was an excellent final five minutes in a time where the freshmen Blue Devils delivered with astonishing maturity.